Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett
Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs
Assumed office
January 20, 2009
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Julie Cram
Senior Advisor to the President
Assumed office
January 20, 2009
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Barry Jackson
Succeeded by Stephen Bannon
Personal details
Born Valerie June Bowman[1]
(1956-11-14) November 14, 1956
Shiraz, Iran
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) William Jarrett (1983–1988)
Children Laura
Alma mater Stanford University (BA)
University of Michigan, Ann

Valerie June Jarrett (née Bowman; born November 14, 1956) is an American government official who is currently Senior Advisor to the President of the United States and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama administration. She is a Chicago lawyer, businesswoman, and civic leader. Prior to that she served as a co-chair of the Obama–Biden Transition Project.[2][3]

Early life and education

Jarrett was born in Shiraz, Iran, to American parents James E. Bowman and Barbara Taylor Bowman. One of her maternal great-grandfathers, Robert Robinson Taylor, was an architect who was the first accredited African American architect, and the first African-American student enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[4]

Her father, a pathologist and geneticist, ran a hospital for children in Shiraz in 1956 as part of a program where American physicians and agricultural experts sought to help developing countries' health and farming efforts. When she was five years old, the family moved to London for a year, later moving to Chicago in 1963.[5] Her parents were both African-American; on the television series Finding Your Roots, genealogical research and DNA testing indicated that Jarrett also has French, Scottish, and Native American ancestry.[6] As a child, Jarrett spoke Farsi and French.[7] In 1966, her mother was one of four child advocates that created the Erikson Institute. The Institute was established to provide collective knowledge in child development for teachers and other professionals working with young children.[8]

Jarrett graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon in 1974. She earned a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University in 1978 and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981.[9] On May 22, 2016, Jarrett received an honorary degree from Colby College in Waterville, Maine.[10]


Chicago municipal politics

Jarrett got her start in Chicago politics in 1987 working for Mayor Harold Washington[11] as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development.[12]

Jarrett continued to work in the mayor's office in the 1990s. She was deputy chief of staff for Mayor Richard Daley, during which time (1991) she hired Michelle Robinson, then engaged to Barack Obama, away from a private law firm. Jarrett served as commissioner of the department of planning and development from 1992 through 1995, and she was chairwoman of the Chicago Transit Board from 1995 to 2005.[12]

Business administration

Until joining the Obama administration, Jarrett was the CEO of the Habitat Company, a real estate development and management company,[13] which she joined in 1995. She has been replaced by Mark Segal, a lawyer who joined the company in 2002, as CEO. Daniel E. Levin is the chairman of Habitat, which was formed in 1971.[14] Jarrett was a member of the board of Chicago Stock Exchange (2000–2007, as chairman, 2004–2007).

She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago Medical Center from 1996 to 2009, becoming vice chairwoman in 2002 and chairwoman in 2006.[15] She also served as Vice Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago and a Trustee of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.[16] Jarrett serves on the board of directors of USG Corporation, a Chicago-based building materials corporation.

Jarrett's previous year's income, in a 2009 report, was a $300,000 salary and $550,000 in deferred compensation from the Habitat Executive Services, Inc. The Wall Street Journal also reported that she disclosed receiving payments of more than $346,000 for service on boards of directors that reflect her political ties, work in Chicago real estate, and Chicago community development. She was paid $76,000 for service as a director of Navigant Consulting, Inc., a Chicago-based global consulting group with governmental clients. She received $146,600 from USG and $58,000 to serve on the board of Rreef American REIT II, a real estate investment trust based in San Francisco. The Chicago Stock Exchange, Inc., paid her $34,444.[17]

Advisor to Barack Obama

Obama speaks to Jarrett and other aides during a senior staff meeting in August 2009.
Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett converse in the Blue Room, White House, 2010.

Jarrett is one of President Obama's longest serving advisors and confidantes and was "widely tipped for a high-profile position in an Obama administration."[18][19]

Unlike Bert Lance, who arrived from Georgia with President [Jimmy] Carter and became his budget director, or Karen Hughes, who was President [George W.] Bush's communications manager, Ms. Jarrett isn't a confidante with a particular portfolio. What she does share with these counterparts is a fierce sense of loyalty and a refusal to publicly say anything that may reflect poorly on the candidate—or steal his thunder.[18]

On November 14, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama selected Jarrett to serve as White House Senior Advisor and assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations and public liaison.[20]

Jarrett is one of three senior advisors to President Obama.[21] She holds the retitled position of assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement,[21] managing the White House Office of Public Engagement, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Office of Urban Affairs; she also chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport.[22] She was part of the US State Visit to the UK in May 2011.[23]

She said that the 2011 report Women in America, which the administration produced for the Council on Women and Girls, would be used to guide policy-making.[24]

Jarrett has a staff of about three dozen and receives full-time Secret Service protection as a White-house aide.[25] Jarrett's role as both a friend of the Obamas and as an advisor in the White House has been controversial: Robert M. Gates, former Secretary of Defense, objected in his memoirs to her involvement in foreign security affairs;[26] David Axelrod reported in his memoirs Rahm Emanuel's attempts to have her selected as Obama's replacement in the Senate, due to concerns about the difficulty in working with a family friend in a major policy role.[27]

Additional leadership positions

In addition to being senior advisor to the president, Jarrett holds other leadership positions and completes further duties. Among those include chairing the White House Council on Women and Girls and co-chairing the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.[28][29]

Relationship with President Obama

Obama speaks with Jarrett in a West Wing corridor.

In 1991, as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard Daley, Jarrett interviewed Michelle Robinson for an opening in the mayor's office, after which she immediately offered Robinson the job.[30] Michelle Robinson asked for time to think and also asked Jarrett to meet Robinson's fiancé, Barack Obama. The three ended up meeting for dinner. After the dinner, Michelle took the job with the mayor's office, and Valerie Jarrett reportedly took the couple under her wing and "introduced them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own." Jarrett later took Michelle with her when Jarrett left the mayor's office to head Chicago's Department of Planning and Development.

Along with Donna Brazile, vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, she is one of the real-life political figures to cameo as herself in the CBS drama The Good Wife.[31]

Personal life

In 1983 Jarrett married William Robert Jarrett, son of Chicago Sun-Times reporter Vernon Jarrett. She attributes her switch from a private to a public career to their daughter Laura's birth and her own desire to do something that would make their daughter proud.[32]

To one reporter's emailed question about her divorce, she replied, "Married in 1983, separated in 1987, and divorced in 1988. Enough said."[32] In a Vogue profile, she further explained, "We grew up together. We were friends since childhood. In a sense, he was the boy next door. I married without really appreciating how hard divorce would be."[32] William Jarrett died in 1993 at age 40, and at the time of his death was director of obstetrics and gynecology at Jackson Park Hospital.[33]


  2. Terry, Don (July 27, 2008). "Insider has Obama's ear: What's she telling him?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  3. King, John (November 9, 2008). "Obama wants Valerie Jarrett to replace him in Senate".
  4. Ellen Weiss, Robert Robinson Taylor, Encyclopedia of Alabama
  5. "2-Min Bio: Valerie Jarrett", Time, November 11, 2008.
  6. Stated on Finding Your Roots, PBS, October 28, 2014
  7. Kantor, Jodi (November 23, 2008). "An Old Hometown Mentor, Still at Obama's Side". The New York Times.
  8. History, The Erikson Institute.
  9. Valerie Jarrett to leave University of Chicago posts for White House, University of Chicago, January 9, 2009, ...Stanford University in 1978 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981.
  10. "Honorary Degree Citations". Commencement. 2016-05-22. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  11. "Campaign 2008: The Family Friend: Valerie Jarrett". Newsweek. May 19, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  12. 1 2 "Valerie Jarrett to lead expanded Board of University of Chicago Medical Center" (Press release). University of Chicago News Office. June 13, 2006.
  13. The Habitat Company.
  14. Gallun, Alby (Feb 5, 2009), "Habitat promotes veteran to CEO", Chicago Real Estate Daily (Crain's), retrieved May 4, 2009.
  15. "Valerie Jarrett to leave University of Chicago posts for White House". 2009. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  16. "Valerie Jarrett Profile". 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  17. McKinnon, John D; Farnum, FW (April 4, 2009), "Hedge Fund Paid Summers $5.2 Million in Past Year", The Wall Street Journal (online ed.), retrieved May 4, 2009.
  18. 1 2 Belkin, Douglas (May 12, 2008). "For Obama, Advice Straight Up: Valerie Jarrett Is Essential Member of Inner Set". Wall Street Journal.
  19. Bai, Matt (August 10, 2008). "Is Obama the End of Black Politics?". New York Times Magazine.
  20. Kantor, Jodi (November 14, 2008). "Obama Hires Jarrett for Senior Role". New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  21. 1 2 "Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett". The Administration: White House Staff. Retrieved January 29, 2009. Valerie B. Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison
  22. Kantor, Jodi (November 14, 2008). "Longstanding Obama Advisor Gets Senior Role at the White House". New York Times.
  23. "US State Visit, 24 to 26 May 2011 Guest List". Royal Family official website.
  24. Stolberg, Sheryl (March 1, 2011). "White House Issues Report on Women in America". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  25. Becker, Jo (2012-09-01). "The Other Power in the West Wing". NY Times. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  26. Robert M. Gates. Duty: memoirs of a secretary at war. Deckle Edge, 2014
  27. David Axelrod. Believer: my forty years in politics. Penguin Press. 2015
  28. A renewed call to action to end rape and sexual assault, The White House Blog, Washington, DC: Valerie Jarrett, 22 January 2014, Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  29. Memorandum: Establishing White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault,, Washington, DC: The White House, 22 January 2014, Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  30. Van Meter, Jonathan (October 2008). "Barack's Rock". Vogue.
  31. Jackson, David (September 29, 2014). "Valerie Jarrett appears on 'The Good Wife'". Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  32. 1 2 3 van Meter, Jonathan (October 2008), "Barack's Rock", Vogue, retrieved December 15, 2008.
  33. Heise, Kenan (November 23, 1993). "Dr. William Jarrett Of Jackson Park Hospital". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
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Political offices
Preceded by
Julie Cram
Director of the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs
Preceded by
Barry Jackson
Senior Advisor to the President
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